Town of Kensington locks out workers

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Nancy MacPhee
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Kensington Town Hall

KENSINGTON — With just three weeks before Christmas, CUPE says its unionized employees are being locked out by the Town of Kensington following a contract dispute.

The move, said CUPE national representative Stacy Delaney, blindsided the employees who were in the midst of contract negotiations with the town.

“This came right out of left field for us. We never imagined that the employer would take the stance to lock out members tomorrow morning,” Delaney said late Tuesday. “We were in talks. We put a final offer in. We counter-offered and then we basically rejected their counter-offer to us. We felt we would just wait and go to arbitration and proceed.”

The call came from town CAO Geoff Baker after council had reviewed the union’s counter-offer, which came Thursday, and countered with their own offer, which, said Baker, the union rejected late Monday night.

“It was a very difficult decision,” Baker said late Tuesday. “We certainly regret finding it necessary to have to lock out out unionized employees three weeks before Christmas. It is an unfortunate thing at any time.

“We certainly believed that CUPE would accept our most recent offer that we made on Monday of this week of 7.5 per cent over three years.”

The unionized employees impacted are members of CUPE Local 4893, which includes six Kensington police officers and six other employees – three communications technicians, a public works employee and a janitor.

Under the provincial Labour Act, the police officers are deemed essential employees and are exempt from the lockout.

Local 4893’s contract expired in April of this year. After five days of bargaining with the Town of Kensington in May, the parties were unable to reach an agreement.

That’s when the union filed for conciliation.

Three more days of conciliation took place in September and October. Justice Minister Janice Sherry then referred the matter to a board of arbitration on Oct. 28.

The union said outstanding issues that prompted its rejection of the town’s counter offer deal were on-call pay for part-time officers, wages and the contract’s duration.

“There had been discussions last week about final offers,” said Delaney. “We felt we gave up some of our needs and wants to the needs and wants of the employer, which they didn’t give. That’s why the last offer was rejected.”

Baker said the town offered a 7.5 per cent wage increase over three years. The union, said Delaney, wanted that increase over two years.

“We gave into it and said, yes, we will go for the three-year agreement,” she added. “The other issue was the on-call pay for the part-time police officers. Right now there is no compensation whatsoever for part-time police officers. We were looking for an hour pay. They wanted a half-hour pay. We came to that half hour. We moved on two of theirs.”

The union called the lockout “cold hearted,” saying it leaves its members out in the cold leading up to the holiday season.

“I understand how they can refer to it as cold hearted. Again, we were very surprised. We fully anticipated CUPE would have accepted our latest offer,” said Baker. “They referenced on-call pay to part-time officers. That term of the contract, from our perspective, was settled as well. It surprises me that CUPE is coming out with these things as outstanding.”

In the meantime, the locked-out employees will show up for work Wednesday morning as usual, this time with picket signs.

Baker said until the matter is resolved the town would not be using other workers to fill the positions left vacant as a result of the lockout.

“It’s a difficult situation we’re in. We’d like to think that this matter is going to be settled in short order and that all employees are going to be back to work in short order and collecting pay accordingly,” he added. “It would be our hope that this is over long in advance of Christmas.”

And that is the union’s hope as well.  

Delaney said CUPE national and the local will provide some financial support to the employees and the union will send out an appeal for the support of other unions and CUPE locals on the Island and in the region “to make this as painless as possible.” 

“It is really hard to know how long it will play out. A lot of people are in shock. We have to have those conversations,” she added. “The goal is to support everyone and get them through. It is a rough time of year, Christmastime.”

Geographic location: Kensington

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Recent comments

  • Phil
    December 03, 2013 - 22:55

    Seems to me they had almost reached a deal. Why would you lock out your employees at this late stage ? I wouldn't believe the employer . They want this to last through Christmas to save money. and let the food banks and unions pay the bills. There doesn't appear to be any other explanation unless they were going to lose big time in arbitration. Maybe they have been stiffing the employees for years and an AB would side with the Union

  • Ricky
    December 03, 2013 - 21:47

    This decision has local yocal city councillor all over it. Drop the threatening hammer right before Christmas. This'll get em to sign Cletus. Good luck to the union. Should do wonders for relations!!!!

  • Ktown resident
    December 03, 2013 - 21:15

    Kensington has long been known as a close minded community locked in the 1960s. It would be interesting to see who actually called the shots here. Municipal management or a half cocked elected official with no business involving themselves in day to day operations. Knowing how small town PEI works my bet is the latter. Very unfortunate decision so close to Christmas.

  • Great work Wes
    December 03, 2013 - 19:51

    Your riding Wes! Starting a trend.

  • alleyoops
    December 03, 2013 - 18:13

    I know 60 people just down the road looking for work...... better be careful union

    • Give me a break
      December 04, 2013 - 13:56

      Well, those 60 people down the road wouldn't want the job if it wasn't for the unions, because they would only be paying about $5 an hour, which is where the minimum wage would still be if were not for unions! I hope they dig in deep, stock to their guns, and get every cent they asked for. Perhaps the townies here should get together and hold an event in support of the workers affected.

  • Garth Staples
    December 03, 2013 - 17:56

    Union rep:"This came right out of left field for us"-------------. Left field? LOL!

  • don
    December 03, 2013 - 16:43

    CAO Geoff Baker and the mayor needs te police to protect them. but i know this will not work but when they allow the workers back to work DO NOT GO. no mater what it the trouble is if the town hall is burning down or a flood due to a broken water line DO NOT GO TO WORK let the mayor etc fix it. as the saying goes 2 can pl;y hard ball. the reason why they are locking you out now is xmas it will force you o agree with them and take chicken feed. are you going to bow down and kiss butt?